“But isn’t that awfully little money?”

Just in case you have never been in this situation, let me tell you: Discussing your career and lifestyle choices with the older generation is not fun. But I’m sure you knew that already.

Most of the time I feel pretty grown-up. I have a job. I can afford rent, food and clothing (okay, barely, but I can), I have a long-term partner, I get excited about kitchen appliances and I know how to do my taxes. I even have a re-usable shopping bag that can be folded into a tiny bag and hooked onto my key-chain. Okay, I don’t carry it on my key-chain… it hasn’t come that far. The point is, most days, I know how to adult, and I feel accordingly capable.

Nothing destroys that confidence faster than talking to, say, my mother’s friends. So, dear “older generation”, here’s a few questions that I would really like to never answer again, ever. In the future, please do me a favor and just refer to this article.

“But if you’re still studying, isn’t it going to take a long time before you have a career?”

Yes. Or actually: Yes, it is going to take a long time for me to finish my studies. Yes, I knew that when I decided to go back to school at 25. Yes, I have thought it through. Also, why exactly are you assuming I want or need a “career” in the classical sense? I mean, maybe I want one, but could you just ask before you assume?

On second thought, maybe don’t. I guess assuming is fine.

“Wouldn’t you rather have a secure job and start earning money?”

Ughhhh. Of couse I’d rather be rich. But no, I wouldn’t rather sell my soul to some corporation for a so-called “secure job” that is secure exactly until the next financial crisis, and in the meantime will suck every bit of joy from my life. I have a job. I am earning money. It’s part time, so it’s not a ton of money, because I have my studies as well, but I am independent. Hello. As long as I’m not asking you for loans, please don’t tell me how much money I should be making, or how you think being as poor as me is, like, the worst thing that can happen to a person. Or how you had that great corporate job at 25. The world is different today, okay? And I want to be happy. With my job, not just when I get to go home. It’s a core value of this generation – more so than money for a lot of us. So please take me seriously and don’t assume that I’m lazy, have no perspective and / or will always be as “poor” as I am now.

“Isn’t your apartment very small for two people?”

Yes, it is small. No, it is not too small. We could have had a bigger apartment, but we chose to prioritize location over size. And no, in this or a comparable location we definitely wouldn’t be able to afford the 70+ square meters that you think are appropriate for two people. Also: Who needs that much space? You’re just going to fill it with stuff. Since we moved, I have thrown out more stuff than I have brought in. And I still want to throw out more. Because the truth is, you don’t need a lot of the stuff. It becomes a burden. If anything, I’d really like to learn to live with much less stuff than I do right now. And I really, honestly, want that more than I want a bigger place.

“So, what is your career plan then, for after your studies?”

Okay, so you’ve accepted I want to finish my studies and you’ve grudgingly also accepted the fact that I will need until I’m about thirty to do so. You’re willing to entertain the idea that someone might be happy in a small city apartment with a master’s degree in something she really loves, ready to hit the working world full-time at thirty, finally, rather than being settled in the suburbs with two kids and a car by that age. Now you want to know what my plan is?

Well, see. That’s five years from now. I’ve thought this through, I promise. I have ideas, I have several plans, and I’m excited to see which one it will be. But I am really not ready to tell you exactly what is going to happen in my life five years from now. And to be honest, yes, that’s kind of terrifying, but you know what would be worse? If I really already knew everything.

Voltaire is with me on this, so I must be right:

“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”

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Lost and Found

Lately, when people ask me how I am doing, I have been telling them that I am feeling very lost. With my US visa about to expire and my imminent departure from San Francisco approaching faster and faster, I have gone back and forth between ignoring my life and falling into sheer panic whenever I don’t. Everything I love is here. Everything I want is here. I belong here. And in a fair world I wouldn’t have to leave. I felt defeated and that’s not a good thing to feel.

When we lose ourselves, what we really mean is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our direction, our end goal, our carefully charted course that we once found ourselves barreling down. We’ve lost the drive we used to use to propel us. We’ve lost the vision we once used to light the way ahead. We feel lost when what we had dreamed our life to be like falls through and it is beyond our influence to fix it.

But here’s the truth about being lost – we’re only ever as lost as we are in denial. When we don’t want the past to be over and the future looks too daunting to touch, we call it lost. When we’re barreling forwards at a thousand miles an hour but gazing determinately out the rearview mirror, we call it lost. When what’s been is so painfully appealing compared to what is coming up next, we call it lost. Because we’d rather be lost than be found in this new, uncomfortable place. And so we bury our coordinates. We toss away our compasses. And we declare ourselves citizens of no-mans-land.

The truth about being lost is that we choose it when we just aren’t ready to be found yet.

When you’re lost, you find yourself in every step you take towards gaining back control of your life. By stopping the cycle of passivity and replacing it with one of autonomy. You find your new self in each small choice you make, each risk you take, each opportunity that you fail to pass up, even if it ends up being a flop. You find yourself by re-creating yourself into the kind of person who is ready to take on what’s next.

Because the truth is, we can’t ever truly lose ourselves, because all ‘losing ourselves’ means is that we’re choosing a story that ended over the one that is still going on. It means we’re gazing in the wrong direction and calling our disorientation lost.

Getting found, by definition, is the simple act of recognizing where you are.  You simply have to recognize that you’re somewhere new now. Somewhere different and challenging and less than ideal, maybe. But there you are. And to find yourself somewhere new, you simply need to start walking.

You’ll find yourself in wherever you end up.

You’ll find yourself in any place where you go with your whole heart.

So, game mode is on. I’m fighting back. It sucks that other people decide that I can’t stay in the place I am so happy in, surrounded by the people that make me happy. It has been driving me mad. But here I am. Moving to Berlin to help my current employer expand to Europe. And working my ass off to come back next year. California is where I belong and heck, I won’t let anything get in the way off that. Well, at least nothing within my power. Now excuse me, I am taking back my life…

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